Story: The Awaited One
Chapter 3: Bruises
Crossover: Firefly/Buffy – if you squint and look sideways
Timeline: Firefly-post BDM seven months after, Buffy – takes into account all of television series of both Angel and Buffy but no the comic books.
Summary: Five hundred years later there is a new light approaching. Rayne—S/K
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Buffy/Angel mythos and Firefly/Serenity are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Inc., etc.
River woke suddenly. She shot up from her prone position only to run her forehead into something akin to a wall. She hissed in pain as the wall cursed.
“Gorramit!” the understandable part was familiar.
“Jayne?” River frowned, her hand at the lump forming on the top of her head. She took note that her clothes were still on, she was lying on something soft, and her stomach felt unstable.
“Yeah girl,” his voice held a huff to it. “you been out for near twen’y minutes.”
“Ya passed out in the bay.”
“This isn’t the infirmary,” she cracked her eyes open. She was in the common room. She looked up at the merc. Her occurrences with him made her suspicious of any seemingly innocent action. The apples had been to assuage his guilt. “What have you done?”
There was a flash of pain immediately covered by anger. “Di’n’t do nothin’,” he stood suddenly. “Won’t do it ‘gain!”
“Wait,” she latched onto his arm, “I apologize.” She blinked her eyes to clear the spots, “I am not accustomed to selflessness from you.”
Jayne was surprised when his forward progress was stopped by the slender appendage. “Have ya eaten anythin’?”
“Dined on protein at dinner with the rest of the crew,” she was puzzled.
He rolled his eyes and lifted her to her feet. She swayed and he picked her up heading upstairs. “I ate what ya leave,” he told her, “the most ya had was a bite.”
She squirmed when she felt the world go soft. He dropped her into a chair at the table. “Why did you not wake Simon?”
“Figured you was avoidin’ ‘im,” he shrugged. “’sides ya want to be treated grown-up, ya get your secrets.”
River looked up at the big merc trying to decipher him without using the things his mind was spitting out. At the very least he was sincere…
“I was goin’ to make a snack,” he suddenly said. “Want some?”
She ducked her head, “while I appreciate the offer… I only regurgitate my caloric intake.”
“In Jayne-speak,” he requested.
“I throw up,” she studied the table.
“It from them meds?”
“No,” she frowned, “my body has broken down all the poisons.”
He shrugged. “Make ya a deal.” Once he had her complete attention he continued, “I’ll find us somethin’. If ya still git sick, I’ll hold your hair.”
River stared at him for a full minute before relaxing into her chair, “I accept.”
Jayne quickly gathered some things before pilfering his food locker. He set out protein chips, an apple, and sweets. Then made two glasses of powdered milk.
Her frown deepened as he sliced the apple into thin slices, putting every third slice in front of her. She picked up one of the pieces and snapped it in half. She savored the flavor on her tongue. It was so rare to have real food.
“Why?” she asked Jayne.
When he didn’t respond she looked at him.
“You do not like me,” she added, “yet you picked me up when I fell and shared food… why?”
He finished the apple, sucking juices from the core before opening the protein chips. Finally he shrugged, “I ain’t wantin’ to look after anyone. Ya ain’t wantin’ to be looked after. Figured it worked, for, ya know, partners.”
“What is your proposition?”
“I ain’t propositioning ya!” he looked scandalized.
Rivers lips twitched and a smile slowly spread over her face. “I didn’t think you would. I meant what would this partnership entail?”
“Oh,” he frowned, “you watch my back, I watch yours.”
“We already do that.”
“Well and other things, like spar,” he suggested, “ya can kill with or without weapons, but if ya don’t want the person dead…”
“I lack control,” she admitted.
“Exactly, mayhap we can keep each other from goin’ bughouse on the long hauls.” He pushed some chips in front of her.
“And making me eat accomplishes which of these goals?”
“If someone aims at you they will kill you,” he told her, “a chest or gut shot and you’ll git dead. Hell, Blinky would go all the way through ya. Need meat on ya, something to help protect your innards.”
River reached over and pushed a dainty finger into his bulking chest. “Walls of muscle.”
“Yeah, like that.” He brushed her hand away, rubbing where her bony finger had been.
“Are there restrictions or requirements?” she asked.
“Even if ya don’t tell the doc, ya got to tell me when you git yourself hurt and go to Zoe to be patched up.” He wagged a finger at her, “if ya know somethin’ is hinky with a job ya say so. And ya eat at least half of the food put in front of ya.”
“You are focused on my eating habits,” she commented.
“Bein’ skinny is problem ‘nough dirtside,” he mumbled.
An image of a sickly stick-like young man silenced her curiosity. “Anything I reveal stays between us. Our secret.”
Jayne nodded, “I can handle that.”
River held out her hand and waited until he took it before giving him a full smile.
He returned a smaller one as they continued to eat in silence.
Jayne sprawled himself into his chair at breakfast the next morning. His nightmares of Reavers had not returned after his snack with River. He had dreamed, but it was elusive as to what he’d been dreaming of.
Two minutes into his protein meal Jayne realized the conversation had stopped. He looked up in question only to find all but River looking at him. The girl in question was studying her hands in her lap.
“Lil’ Kaylee was just wonderin’ when my merc got manhandled ‘nough to have a bruise the size and shape of a hand,” Mal said conversationally.
Jayne frowned and looked at his exposed arms. There on his right forearm was a massive bruise; the size and shape of a certain girl’s hand. He should be mad, a week ago probably would have been. He was, however, impressed. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been bruised without a punch being thrown.
Out of the corner of his eye he could see River’s hair obscuring her face. Discreetly he shoved his foot two inches over to kick her. Her head snapped up, eyes round and tear-filled.
Zoe and Inara caught the byplay. “Jayne,” Mal brought his attention back, “where’d you get it?”
“A woman,” he shrugged. “Didn’t mean nothin’ by it, just di’n’t know she was so strong.”
Mal frowned, “a woman did that? On accident?”
“Few appreciate being manhandled,” Simon added, “much less by an ape.”
Jayne and River went rigid in their seats.
“Simon,” Kaylee tried to chastise.
“Leave it be Kaylee,” Jayne finally said. And she did.
Jayne rinsed his bowl and left as soon as he was finished.
“River?” Inara said suddenly,” are you alright? You don’t look well.”
“No,” the pilot admitted as she stood. “I injured Jayne.”
Simon was standing immediately, “what did he do?”
“Nothing,” she sighed. “He helped me and I injured him and my silence allowed you all to think bad thoughts about him.”
She straightened her back and walked out of the mess. She only made it out of their sight before running to the closest latrine.
It was past mid-day when Inara and Zoe approached River in the cockpit. Inara stood, while Zoe sat in the co-pilot seat. For the first several moments the genius pretended not to know they were there.
With a sigh she abandoned the ruse and turned around. “Yes?”
“What happened with Jayne?” Inara asked.
There was no response.
“Did he try something?” Zoe asked.
“Tian xiao-de,” she muttered, “I did not injure him on purpose.”
“Did this,” Inara cleared her throat, “happen during sex?”
“Kao,” she looked to the ceiling, “wo zai qian-shi yi-ding re dao shen-me ren le ba… no. What happened is between him and me.” She got up and walked off the bridge.
“What do you think?” Zoe asked.
“She is being mostly honest,” Inara replied, “but there is some aspect she is keeping to herself.”
The excursion to Shiva was short. Only long enough for a load of unmark Alliance foods to be heisted. The ten day journey to Persephone was another matter. The heist had been clean, a knife to a guys shoulder was the most blood spilled.
By the seventh day in the Black everyone was a little on edge, waiting for the other shoe to drop. River found Jayne in the cargo bay late ship-time.
She sidled up to him. “Do you want to spar?”
He looked over at her, “yea.”
“Rules?” she inquired.
“Face and groin are off limits,” he shrugged. “Still feelin’ sick?”
“Yes,” she made a face.
“So I won’t hit ya in the stomach.”
They faced each other five feet apart. She stood still while he bounced on the balls of his feet. She moved in, aiming a hit to his side. He dodged and shoved her shoulder. River rolled into it, coming up on her feet. She smiled and struck his chest with her foot.
And like that they were off. Kicking and grunting and hitting and side-stepping and laughing and dodging. It was nearly forty-five minutes before she had him pinned. Her knees pinned his thighs, his wrists next to his body held down by her hands.
“Ai ya,” the merc grumbled.
“Admit defeat,” she ordered.
“Yea, yea. Ya win.”
River smiled brightly and jumped off him. She grabbed his hand and hauled him up as well.
“I require food,” she told him.
“Come on,” he led her to the mess.
Neither of them saw Inara watching from the entrance to her shuttle.
Jayne was late to breakfast, but he wasn’t the last. He rubbed his hip as he sat. It was one of two forming bruises he had discovered when he woke.
“Ren-ci de Fozu!” Kaylee’s exclamation made everyone look up. “River, what happened?”
The pilot was sporting a purplish bruise on the left side of her jaw.
“Miscalculated,” she shrugged and dropped into her chair.
“Mei mei,” Simon got up and went to her. “This looks a few days old. Have you been hiding it?”
“Acquired it seven hours ago,” she calmly pushed his hand from her face. “Ugh,” she pushed out of her chair. “I am not hungry and your worry is annoying.” She walked towards to the bridge.
Simon’s eyes immediately went to Mal asking for help.
The captain had finished his breakfast and stood. He stepped into the cockpit just as River input course corrections.
“Four days, one hour, fourteen minutes to Persephone,” she informed him.
The captain sat down. “You’re as bad as Kaylee,” he told her. “But ya use Zoe’s tactics.”
She frowned at him.
“If Kaylee’s mad she mopes around, givin’ me a look like I’ve done kicked a puppy.” He sat back, considering, “Zoe goes quiet, all business-like.” He watched her with narrowed blue eyes, “but then I did wrong by ya… figure I can’t just hope you’ll drop it.”
Her chocolate eyes met his.
“I should have rethought after everything that happened,” he shrugged. “At the time it was too much change.”
“And when I made my intentions known?”
He frowned, “not sure. Part of it was your brother talking ‘bout how unstable you was like to get.”
“Simon believes in medicine to the point of not seeing anything else.”
“Mayhap. Either way you’re crew, ya got crew rules.”
“Thank you, captain,” she smiled brightly.
“Now ‘bout that bruise…”
“It is nothing,” she turned back to the console.
He sighed, “alright then,” he was to the door before saying, “but you or Jayne keep up with the mysterious bruising and I’m goin’ to lock you in at night to insure it don’t happen ‘gain.”
River grinned at the blinking lights.
It was nearly dinner when Jayne appeared in the cockpit. He crouched down to examine her face.
“Hurt much?” he asked.
“No,” she touched her ribs, just below her heart, “the cracked ribs do.”
“Gorramit,” he pushed her shirt up to reveal the purple bruise. “How bad?”
“Cracked,” she flinched when he prodded the tender area.
“Di’n’t know I’d hit ya so hard,” he let go of her shirt. “Ya should have Zoe wrap ‘em.”
She grabbed the neck of his shirt to reveal a forming bruise on his clavicle. She frowned deeply.
“Come with me,” she stood and waited for him to right himself. Then she made her way to the infirmary. Once Jayne was inside she flicked on the lights and went immediately to the encyclopedia. She searched quickly through it.
“Remove your shirt,” River told him without looking up.
She sighed and put down the encyclopedia. “You made it clear that my shoulder healed too quickly. We both sustained injuries last night. I need to compare our healing times in order to understand the difference.”
He frowned at her but removed his shirt.
River swallowed thickly and tried to be clinical about her assessment but some part of her reacted to the shirtless man. His chest was a map of wounds. Her eyes were drawn to the one she was most familiar with. She was not aware until her fingertips touched skin that she had even moved.
She jerked back. Trying to distract herself she grabbed a notepad from the drawer and a pen from the board. She wrote down a couple of words, “How long does it take for a bruise to completely heal after the initial injury?”
“Couple weeks,” he shrugged.
“What is the progression in color?”
“Red, purple, green, yellow,” he frowned at her. Focusing on her jaw, “your jaw is purplely-green.”
River nodded, “how long does yours take to get to this degree of healing?”
“Five, six days.”
She studied the red, swollen bruise she had given him on his clavicle. “My bruises received yesterday match the one on your arm,” she pointed to her hand print, “twelve hours healed me what took you seven days.” She raised her shirt, “my ribs are cracked. They should take four weeks to heal, but they are already knitting themselves together. At their current progression they will heal before we reach Persephone.”
“Ya always healed quick like?”
“No,” she shook her head, “I remember when I was thirteen falling from a tree. I had a large bruise on my hip. It took three weeks to go away. I nearly missed a recital because I was stiff.”
“You two,” a voice said from the door, “may want to get yourselves back in order. Dinner is being served.”
“Inara,” Jayne panicked. “This ain’t what it looks like.”
She raised a perfectly manicured eyebrow, “So you two are not comparing injuries you inflicted on each other during your ‘game’ in the cargo bay?”
River’s eyes went wide.
“Was that where the bruise on your arm came from, Jayne?” Inara asked.
“No,” the genius denied, “that was an accident unrelated to physical test of strength and agility.”
“Are either of you hurt?”
“Nah,” Jayne shook his head, “’cept River’s ribs.”
“They are fine,” she pulled her shirt down and stuffed her notes into her back pocket. Jayne pulled his shirt back on. “We were trying to gage how rapidly I heal. A rough estimate is two to three times faster than Jayne.”
“Hmm,” Inara nodded. “You should get to dinner before anyone comes looking for you.”
She watched the pair disappear up the side stairs to the mess. They seemed no different than she had thought them two weeks ago. The small thing that she saw was that Jayne wasn’t watching River, waiting to see what she’d do next…